Dateline : 16th November 2011

Donning his whites and shouting Howzat in an incredibly loud voice at anyone who’ll listen, RetroBear turns his hand at the gentleman’s game and asks why there was never a decent cricket game before this one….

For the first time a cricket game actually looked like a cricket game


When considering which sports get picked up and turned into computer games developers have to consider what would sell best,. Football is a no brainer really and in the US big selling games series like Madden have proved global money spinners. Its all about appealing to the mass market as well as creating a game that replicates playing the sport well. Of course there will be those who would say why not go out and kick a proper football about, but they are missing the point.

Cricket had been hard done by for many years. The only games were either poor stick men simulated on a big green screen with little input from the player on the outcome of the game. Tynesoft licensed Ian Botham to a game but on one version they made it impossible to bat thus rendering the game useless. It wasn’t until Audiogenic got Graham Gooch to sign on the dotted line and produced a fine C64 game based on the genetleman’s game. It was later updated and released on the Amiga which wasn’t too bad but didn’t improve on the original game much.

Looks marvellous doesn't it, almost like being there. Ahhhh the thwack of willow on leather....


To that point Codemasters had long been associated with budget games, creating a star from the game character Dizzy. So it was to everyone’s surprise when they got Brian Lara, at the time the world’s best batsman, to lend his name to their new Mega Drive game. Whilst not appearing all that different from the Gooch games it was more up-to-date and gave you far more options and game types than before, enabling the cricket aficionado to be fully satisfied.

When the series moved to the Playstation it was then that cricket games really began to look and feel like cricket. The players were more realistic, you could partake in World Cups, international test series and any number of limited or maximum over games. Stadiums were beautifully and accurately replicated and as is the norm for sports games, the dulcet tones of TV and radio commentators were added.

Batting was easy and more involved. The eight way joypad allowed you different shots and providing your timing was right , especially on the harder levels, balls could be whacked to the boundary with ease. Bowling was more involved too, allowing you to dictate the pace, type of action and placement of your delivery more accurately than before. Finally you could actually field the ball manually rather than have the computer do it for you.

Pakistan v Sri Lanka. Just watch the old no balls....

At the end of the day it’s a game based on cricket so not everyone is going to lap it up no matter how good it is. It sold well, allowing for a sequel before Lara was moved onto the PS2 and XBOX. These games looked a lot better but perhaps didn’t capture the imagination of the other games. EA decided to bring out their own series, ranging from the very good 2002 version, the not so good 2005 version and a much better 2007 version with an option for a full county season.. Codemasters have since brought out further games on the PS3, Wii and 360 based on the Ashes and an International Cricket game. Whilst OK these have not found the audience the original Lara games did.

Cricket doesn’t appeal to all but the original Brian Lara game made more than enough cricket fans misty eyed and thankful that finally someone had managed to recreate the great game on a grand scale.

VERDICT : A big hit over long off, Brian Lara’s Cricket is a very well accomplished and playable game. Do seek out the PS1 versions though as they stand out.

NOTES : As much as 1p will nab you this on Amazon whilst an outrageous 25p will get you this from eBay. Not much excuse for getting this then !

UP NEXT : Yearrrgghh me hearties – Treasure Island Dizzy on the Amiga